Mapping the social work curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand: The road ahead

Phase one of the eR2P project commenced in January of this year with a focus on mapping the social work curriculum. In order to create a map of topics taught in the social work curriculum we must first find a common language to describe topics that are expressed in different curricula in very different ways. Our first task is to create a taxonomy of key educational terms (an approach modelled on prior research by Canadian researchers in the field of medical education (Willet, Marshall, Broudo & Clarke, 2007, 2008)).

The taxonomy is not intended to reflect an idealised curriculum but will be developed from an analysis of statements made in course descriptors about what is actually taught in each programme. Once created, and checked with participants, the taxonomy will then be loaded into a database, along with the course descriptors, and used to create curriculum maps of each programme and describe the social work curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand. Or at least it will describe the intended or declared curriculum (Harden, 2001). We will try to tap into the taught curriculum delivered by educators, and the learned curriculum as experienced by students through the use of focus groups (but more on that in a future post).

Of course we can’t do any of the above without the willing participation of our educational institutions. Aotearoa New Zealand has seventeen social work programmes that are recognised by the Social Workers Registration Board. We are delighted to announce that (at the time of writing) fourteen of them (82%) have now agreed to participate in the project: only one has declined and two are still considering their position. Data has been submitted by almost all participants and the team are busy preparing curriculum documents for analysis. We are also nearing completion of a short literature scan on curriculum mapping and the use of educational taxonomies that will be available from the Ako Aotearoa website in due course.

We are also delighted to announce that the research team has been joined by Shayne Walker, Senior Lecturer in Social Work from the University of Otago and that we have now hired Gail Bosmann-Watene as our project Research Fellow. Both Shayne and Gail, as tangata whenua research team members, bring invaluable Māori cultural expertise ensuring that we have the capability to: correctly interpret educational terms expressed in te reo Māori, describe Māori concepts and practice models included in course curricula, and ensure the cultural responsiveness of our research processes.

Finally, we have had the first meeting of our excellent project advisory group who commended the aims of the eR2P research and offered the team important guidance on engaging with stakeholders and making positive progress. We are just setting out on this three year long journey and much remains to be done, but we are in good company and excited by the road ahead.


Harden, R. M. (2001). AMEE Guide No. 21: Curriculum mapping: a tool for transparent and authentic teaching and learning. Medical Teacher, 23(2), 123–137. doi:10.1080/01421590120036547

Willett, T. G., Marshall, K. C., Broudo, M., & Clarke, M. (2007). TIME as a generic index for outcome-based medical education. Medical Teacher, 29(7), 655–659. doi:10.1080/01421590701615808

Willett, T. G., Marshall, K. C., Broudo, M., & Clarke, M. (2008). It’s about TIME: A general-purpose taxonomy of subjects in medical education. Medical Education, 42(4), 432–438. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2008.03012

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Michael Gil

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